IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release

February 21, 2002

No. 02-03

(301) 585-4000
Contact:
Mokie Porter

 

GULF WAR CHEMICAL EXPOSURE MORTALITY FIGURES ALARMING

Vietnam Veterans of America Calls for Appointment of Independent Counsel to Investigate Pentagon’s Directorate for Deployment Health Support


(Washington, D.C.) – More than 34,000 Gulf War veterans told by Pentagon officials they were not exposed to chemical agents after Operation Desert Storm are dying at a rate nearly ten times that of veterans subsequently added to the Khamisiyah chemical agent exposure model, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) learned today. 

In 2000, the Department of Defense (DoD) revised its estimate of the dispersion pattern of chemical-agent fallout from the demolition of the Iraqi chemical weapons depot at Khamisiyah in southern Iraq, which was destroyed by U.S. troops in 1991. Originally, DoD estimated that 99, 825 veterans had been exposed to low levels of the nerve agent sarin after the demolition.  

In 2000, DoD remodeled the Khamisiyah plume exposure data. The new model excluded 34,418 veterans who had originally been told they’d been in the Khamisiyah downwind hazard zone. DoD then added 34,638 other Khamisiyah-area veterans to the new exposure model, bringing the total number of exposed veterans to 100,045. 

In late 2001, the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Data Management Office (DMO) decided to compare mortality figures between the veterans excluded from the new DoD model and the veterans who were added in their place. The mortality numbers released by the VA show that of the 34,418 who were excluded from DoD’s remodeling of the Khamisiyah chemical weapons fallout plume, 1011 have died, compared to only 105 of the 34, 638 veterans who were added to the revised Khamisiyah plume model in 2000.  

“This pattern in entirely consistent with past practices concerning information relating to toxic exposures in Gulf War veterans. We will request from Attorney General Ashcroft the appointment of a special counsel to investigate this and other matters related to the Pentagon’s conduct in dealing with Gulf War illnesses.” 

Corey noted, since 1995, the Pentagon’s Directorate for Deployment Health Support (formerly known as the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses) has spent in excess of $150 million on Gulf War-related research projects, none of which have been scientifically peer-reviewed or otherwise subjected to genuinely independent scrutiny or the standards of legitimate medical science. 

“We cannot have the agency that created the problem studying the problem,” Corey said. “An independent institute within NIH that is dedicated to studying the full range of health problems affecting veterans is the only way to guarantee that we get good science and therefore good medical treatment for veterans.” 

“Our Gulf War veterans deserve better. We will persist with our efforts to see they get the justice and fair treatment. Corey reiterated VVA’s call for the creation of an independent National Institute of Veterans Health within NIH to study veteran’s medical problems. 

Corey praised the VA’s Data Management Office for studying the problem and publishing the results in a timely manner. 

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

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